Blogs, Feeds, Wikis, and Podcasts: Links for SEJ

(UPDATE OCT. 3: OK, the SEJ conference is now over, and I’m back home in Boulder. I’ve just updated this page of notes and links to reflect more accurately what actually happened in this standing-room-only session. Also, complete audio of this session is now available.)

On Saturday, Oct. 1, I’m delivering a talk at the annual conference of the Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ), in Austin, TX.

I’ll be explaining to a bunch of journalists and other attendees what they most need to know about weblogs, feeds, wikis, and podcasts – just the basics. I’ll focus mainly on the “so what” of it all.

This will be a pretty informal presentation, since I know the SEJ crowd pretty well. Here are the links I’ll be using in that session…

CONTEXT: What’s a blog? Bag the stereotypes

1. WEBLOGS

Finding blogs you like: Imperfect starting points
– It’s much more of an art than a science, so far.

Interesting journalistic weblog:

  • The Greeley (CO) Tribune offers an editor’s blog. This vastly enhances the paper’s connection to the community, by letting the readers “behind the scenes” into the editorial process.
  • Christopher Albritton, a freelance journalist, writes Back to Iraq. In 2003, his blog audience donated enough money to finance a press trip for him to Iraq, so he could do quality independent reporting from there. Since then he’s relocated to Iraq permanently and he continues to writer for his blog and for news publications.

Starting your own blog

Blogger is a free blog tool/host that’s fine for practice, but I wouldn’t use it for anything other than a practice or purely personal project. Blogger blogs have a bad rep as dreadfully trivial and unreadable.

I recommend that you get a Typepad plus- or pro-level account and use that for any blogs you’re serious about.

You’ll probably want your own domain – that looks more serious than having a domain like http://joeschmoe.typepad.com/mycoolblog. You can register a domain cheap at GoDaddy and then follow Typepad’s instructions for domain mapping to apply that domain to your Typepad blog.
– If you already have a domain, you can map a subdomain (like blog.sej.org) to a blog at Typepad or elsewhere, too.

The Unofficial SEJ 2005 conference blog, which I hastily hacked together a couple of days ago, is a Typepad blog.

Blogging Software: You can install programs like these on your server and then host your own blog. Or ask your web host or sysadmin if any of these, or other blog tools, are already installed that you can use:

  • WordPress: Free, open source
  • MovableType: Fee-based license. Very popular. Offers support.
  • Qumana. Free, hybrid software/hosted solution. Currently Windows only.
  • Drupal. Free, open source, extremely versatile.

Google Adsense is currently the most popular contextual advertising program. Several bloggers use this successfully to earn money from their blogs.

2. FEEDS (RSS, Atom, whatever):

My tutorial: What are feeds, and why should you care?

You’ll need a feed reader:

  • Start with Newsgator, a free web-based service, pretty decent interface.
  • If you want a feed reader that resides on your computer, try Sage (Firefox plugin). Safari (Mac OSX browser) comes with a very nice built-in feed reader. FeedDemon is good for Windows, but it’s not free and relies on Explorer (ick…)

Does a site have a feed?

  • Look for geeky icons like these: – other icons may be used, too. OR look for a link or icon that says something like “subscribe to feed” (or XML, or RSS. I use an icon that says “webfeed,” which I think is more intuitive.
  • If no icons or links are visible, there might still be a feed. Some feed readers, like Sage, will discover feeds.
  • If several feeds are offered, subscribe to RSS 2.0 – the only feed format that currently supports podcasts and other attachments. That gives you more flexibility in terms of what you can get from that feed.

If you do a search in Technorati, Feedster, or other feed-based search engine, you can save your search as a feed and continually get results.
– Example: Feedster search for “environmental journalism”

You might want to subscribe to:

Urge your favorite sources to start offering feeds! Use my form letter

3. WIKIS

More to it than just Wikipedia – although don’t dismiss Wikipedia, it’s good for leads.
– We ended up discussing in this session whether and why you can trust Wikipedia. For context, here’s Wikipedia’s accuracy dispute policy.

Example: Topic-specific journalism wikis at Online Journalism Review

Good basic wiki tool: Seedwiki
– Web-based, nothing to install
– Free version available for public wikis.
– Paid version (about $10/month) allows you do do password-protected wikis
– You can export wikis as HTML

Another wiki: Sustainable Nova Scotia

WikiNews: Collaborative public news editing. Quite intriguing.

For team reporting: Probably best to install a wiki tool in-house, on your server or intranet. Mediawiki is popular, open source, well-tested, and free. I recommend it. At the very least, use a password-protected wiki and back up your wiki!

4. PODCASTS

Downloadable online audio, MP3 format. (Not streaming).

My tutorials:

It helps to have a podcatcher: A kind of feed reader (software or service) that lets you subscribe to podcast feeds, then automatically checks feeds and downloads new files.

  • Odeo is a free new web-hosted service for receiving podcasts and distributing your own.
  • Apple’s iTunes now has a rudimentary podcatcher built in. Kinda klunky, but it works. Free.
  • I use iPodder, a free and nifty piece of standalone software. Easier to use than iTunes.

Recommended environmental podcasts

Good free recording software: Audacity

Podcasting how-to books: There are several new titles. I recommend Podcasting: Do It Yourself Pirate Radio for the Masses.

Free podcast host/distribution service: Liberated Syndication

5. OTHER COOL STUFF

  • Furl: Save pages as you see then, creates your own personal searchable and link-shareable library of stuff you don’t want to lose.
  • Del.icio.us: Social bookmarking with tagging. Very popular, great place to find interesting sources and leads.
  • Gmail: Great free web-based mail service from Google. Lots of storage space. Threaded system for reviewing and archiving mail. Ask me if you want a Gmail invitation, I’ve got lots.
  • YouSendIt: Good way to transfer large files. Free. Much faster and less painful than e-mail.
  • Google Maps: Free API tool, allows you to create custom map, annotate it, share it, and open it for annotation by others. Also works with satellite photos. The tour gives lots of examples. Example: Google map of Katrina Flood Damage
  • Google Moon. Zoom in on one of the lunar landing sites as much as you can. (Heh heh heh…)

One thought on “Blogs, Feeds, Wikis, and Podcasts: Links for SEJ

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  1. Amy, WordPress is now offering a hosted blog service as well at wordpress.com. I believe, like Gmail, that you need an invitation to get a WordPress blog. (Let me know if you want one. 😉 It looks quite nice, with a few twists on the server application that make it easier for non-technical users to manage. Also, EduBlogs.org (offered by WordPress provider, IncSub) is well worth mentioning to audiences that include educators.